The portrait

For a variety of reasons drawing fulfils an essential need in my life. Moreover, I like challenges, and for that or some other reason I concentrate on portraiture.

A portrait tries to represent a person but we often tend to think of it like a photograph. We may even think that the more it resembles a person the better it is. In my view however resemblance is not the aim of a portrait but the starting point of the process.

A photograph captures only a moment in a person’s life but a portrait is much more than that. A portrait is a summing up of the person, and it must also reflect the situation of his life. It may in no way be comparable to an actual photograph although it does have to convey enough about the person to the point that the viewer feels in front of a human being and not just his representation.

I am an architect, and perhaps because of that I tend to envisage the whole before considering the details; and this is also the case in drawing a portrait. A portrait begins in the artist’s mind, but in realising this there is an initial intellectual stage of studying and summing up the person. There follows the second mechanical process of physically doing the drawing. However, in the first stage the artist must achieve a balance in deciding which character aspects are relevant and which are not, how to convey the relevant ones to the viewer, the angle of view, the lighting, the setting, and so on.

After all that, the drawing process is only achieving on paper what is inside the artist’s mind. Nevertheless, having sufficient a technical command is essential to ensure the hand can faithfully convey one’s ideas. Otherwise the result will be conditioned by our limitations and, while those may always play a part, it can in extreme cases spoil the result.

There is a point of no return during the drawing process at which the portrait begins to acquire a life of it’s own. Then the artist must pay attention to what the drawing is telling us in order to judge what more is needed and what not. The artist has to achieve a balance between what he has in his head and what he has already put on the paper, and for that he has to stay alert and be critical. Otherwise it may end up as something different to what he intended or be valueless.